Commitment to waste reduction
At Tubby Tabby Soaps, we believe sustainability isn’t only good for the planet; it’s also good for business! We are committed to making sure that we reduce waste wherever possible, and that includes soap that may not look pretty or be the right size. As manufacturers, the number one potential source of waste for us is raw materials, in the event that a batch of soap goes wrong. We’re committed to finding channels that make our “bad soap” useful so that our customers can still enjoy the goodness of our less-than-perfect bars.
Currently, Tubby Tabby Soaps has 6 different ways that it reduces soap waste:
- Assorted 3-packs: cosmetically imperfect (ie. ugly) or off-season soaps can be purchased in our assorted 3-packs, where customers receive a discount on 3 bars of totally fine, high-quality soaps.
- Clean Your Butt packs: soap butts are what happens when you get to the end of a soap loaf and you don’t quite have a full-sized bar. These trimmings (and any other undersized bars) are put into Clean Your Butt packs, where customers can enjoy several sample-size pieces of soaps at a very affordable price.
- Whiskers & Tails packs: when we cut our soaps, we also bevel them to ensure that the corners aren’t too sharp on your hands for the first few uses. Bevelling creates little scraps similar in size to veggie peels or grated cheese, and these are put in Whiskers & Tails packs. Perfect for using in DIY projects that call for grated soap, or for putting in a Soap Cozy to use as you’d use any other kind of soap.
- Intergalactic planets: did you know that soap is really pliable, almost like play-dough, when it’s fresh? This means that often when we bevel our freshly-cut soap, we can roll the scraps into little balls for use as planets in our Intergalactic soap! We can only make a batch when we’ve saved up enough soap planets, which makes it extra limited edition and one of our bestsellers!
- “Rebatching” soap: there’s a process you can use to melt down old soap and make it into a new loaf, and sometimes we do that! Of course, we want to make it extra special, so we make sure we add special ingredients like honey and seaweed, as in our Sea Cow soap! Although rebatched soap maybe doesn’t look as clean and polished as our regular bars, we think it’s extra beautiful because it helps us keep soap out of the landfill and in your bathtub, where it belongs!
- Donations: sometimes soaps just don’t sell, for whatever reason. In these cases, we recognize that there are folks that don’t care what it smells or looks like, they just need access to soap. So we donate soap to to local organizations who have requested soap, like organizations we find through our friends at Second Harvest. This service connects people who have excess goods (usually food, but soap in this case) with those who need free goods, and so we’re able to find a loving home for any of our soaps that didn’t do so well in the store.
Reusing + recycling packaging
Because Tubby Tabby Soaps is a manufacturer, we see a product from start to finish. This means we receive raw materials in packages, transform those materials into a new product and then package that product for retail. That means we deal in two types of packaging: bulk packaging from our suppliers and individual packaging for our customers.
Packaging from our raw materials
When we receive supplies, they regularly come in plastic buckets or jugs. This is because plastic unfortunately remains the safest and most durable way to package oils and lye, the basic elements we need to make soap. However, we do our best to reuse these buckets and jugs many times. Our storage area, instead of employing store-bought plastic totes, makes use of reused buckets, jugs, bins and more. In fact, we very seldom have to purchase plastic storage materials because we’re committed to reusing the materials that are generated by our supply purchases. And when these buckets spring leaks or bins crack too badly to hold items, we make sure to recycle them every time.
If you’ve seen our YouTube videos, you will have seen the many different repurposed plastic containers we use in our soap-making!
Packaging for our products
If you’ve purchased our products before, you know that most of our products come in some form of paper or metal. Our soaps are wrapped in paper, and our balms come in tins, and our gift boxes are made out of recycled cardboard. But occasionally, one of our products will require plastic packaging, and we take these decisions very seriously.
Our liquid soaps are the main products that require plastic packaging. For wholesale customers, we use plastic gallon jugs that we’ve saved from raw materials such as oils for our soap-making. We wash them out thoroughly and clean the old label off of them and once they’re sterilized, we fill them with the customer’s soap. We use a flat cap instead of a specialized pump cap, as most of our wholesale customers who need the pump already have them from previous bottles.
For retail customers, liquid soap products are available in a large-format, refill-style plastic pouch that holds about 3 times as much as a standard pump bottle of liquid soap. Because the pump uses the most plastic, we only sell pump bottles separately to folks who don’t have their own. (Because if you usually use liquid soap, you probably have an old pump bottle kicking around that you can reuse, right?) Pouches, once emptied, can be returned as part of our trade-in program and refilled. And while we don’t currently accept the pump bottles in the trade-in program, we do encourage our customers to use them over and over again with refill pouches of soap.
Using sustainable shipping supplies
As a primarily home-based business, our online store is a big part of how we stay afloat. Since we ship anywhere in Canada or the US, this means that we need to use boxes, tape, packing peanuts and more to make sure your goods get to you safe and sound.
When we select shipping materials, we prioritize recycled materials, such as the recycled kraft crinkle paper that sometimes replaces the need for packing peanuts. Whenever we use packing peanuts, we choose a starch-based peanut that is biodegradable and fully dissolves in water. We also use recycled boxes and tissue paper wherever possible—all unbleached and in a natural light brown colour.
Avoiding single-use plastics wherever possible
When we started Tubby Tabby Soaps, we decided that it was important to avoid plastics as much as possible. Single-use plastics are one of the main degraders of our oceans, wreaking havoc on aquatic life and the ecosystem as a whole. So that’s why any time we include plastic in our product packaging, we also offer a trade-in or reuse program.
That being said, plastic is always a last resort for us to begin with. You’ll notice that our lotions come in a tin because they’re solid. Our lip balms also come in tins, because plastic tubes are so unnecessary! And our shampoo bars are wrapped in tissue and packaged in a paperboard box because why do you need water in your shampoo when you’re already standing in a shower?!
All of our tins and glass jars, such as those used for our body butters, can be returned for reuse (by you or us). You will receive a credit towards your next order whenever you return qualifying packaging. (Check out our trade-in program for all the details.)
If you’ve purchased one of our gift sets, you know that we use a kraft gift box with a paper label. Even though it might not look as pretty as those gift boxes with the clear plastic window, we think it’s worthwhile to avoid the plastic!
In 2023, we’re expanding to more liquid products. This is for two main reasons. One, our customers have been consistently demanding it since our launch in 2019. And two, our friends in the disability advocacy community have told us that sometimes liquid products are more accessible. As we go through the process of developing and releasing these liquid products, we will continue our commitment to eliminating single-use plastics by offering trade-in programs for our customers. We’ll also look at options that use reduced plastic (such as pouches, which use less plastic than pump bottles, or larger-sized refill offerings, for example).
Your feedback during this process (or anytime) is always gratefully received!
Wherever possible, we purchase our raw materials from ethical sources, with a particular focus on biodegradability and sustainability. The vast majority of our products contain organic ingredients and we only use biodegradable cleansers in our shampoo bars. We avoid chemicals like SLS that have been linked to health issues and environmental toxicity. And wherever possible, we source our ingredients fair trade (this includes additives like honey, beeswax, coffee, shea butter and more). Most of our colourants are synthetic micas, which avoid the ethical pitfalls of exploitative mining practices. Some of our colourants and fragrances are all-natural and plant-based (like alkanet root and essential oils), and none of our fragrances contain phthalates or parabens.
When Tubby Tabby Soaps started in 2019, we sourced almost 100% of our ingredients organic. Due to supply chain issues during COVID, there were some products that we needed to source conventional instead of organic. Mostly, it was because import and export became incredibly expensive and even more so for organic products, which became rarer and rarer during the pandemic. Our decision to move away from some organic ingredients was not made lightly; we felt it was important to keep the brand afloat so we could do at least some good, rather than not being able to afford to make our products at all anymore. We hope that the prohibitive prices we have seen recently will come down soon, so that we can continue to make even more business decisions that are in line with our environmental ideals.